Passionfruit Mousse Semifreddo
Is there such a thing as too much passionfruit?
I think not.
A few weeks ago around Valentine’s Day, Jason and I booked a Brazilian cooking class at one of our favorite cooking schools in Denver. Though there are a few good options around town for cooking experiences, we prefer the shiny new facility, professional program – and let’s be honest, the easy parking – at The Kitchen Table Greenwood Village. They really set up a perfect date night, with a dimly lit, nicely-appointed dining room, welcome cocktails and fancy nibbles to begin your evening.
Momentarily sated by the snacks, you then head to the kitchen, gleaming with heavy-duty stainless steel appliances and supplied with All-Clad pots, razor sharp knives and pre-portioned ingredients. Because the school prepares the mise en place, you get to focus on perfecting the tips and techniques presented by seasoned chef presenters, while dirty dishes are whisked away by helpers.
As Jason says, all you have to do is the fun part – putting the ingredients together and eating them! This time, we experimented with the sultry flavors of Rio.
While sipping caipirinhas, we made a spicy seafood stew (vatapá), rich with coconut milk and briny from tiny, pulverized dried shrimp. The stew featured plump, tender shrimp, bright sweetness from chopped red peppers, cooling cilantro and a finishing drizzle of sriracha for good measure. For the main course, there were perfectly seared steaks (picanha na brasa e salada tropical) topped with a refreshing tropical melange of avocado, shallots, corn, orange juice and hearts of palm.
For my sweet tooth, though, the best course is always dessert – a fluffy, tart passionfruit mousse (mousse de maracuja), fragrant with the heady aroma of the tropics. The sharply acidic passionfruit was tamed by mounds of mellow whipped cream and luscious swirls of sweetened condensed milk, all piped prettily into a champagne glass and topped with a balsamic vinegar reduction (unusual and surprisingly perfect twist recommended by our chef!)
The most enjoyable part of the night for me, though, was watching Jason take command in the kitchen. I love to cook (clearly), so Jason rarely has reason or occasion to get behind the stove, and – despite my encouragements for him to test out the harder techniques – usually pushes me to take the lead during cooking classes.
But some kind of crazy voodoo took over him this night, as he nudged me out of the way to begin expertly tossing together our seafood stew. Tasting and adjusting for salt, ad libbing with another handful of jalapeno, he relegated me to knife duty while he manned the burner, fussing over and nurturing our little stew with aplomb.
Tossing our spice rubbed steaks on the flaming grill, he turned them at just the right time at just the precise angle to make professional crosshatched sear marks so beautiful, the instructor cried a single tear. And he didn’t stop there! With strong typing hands (a programmer by trade), he whipped the cream for dessert by hand, gently folding in the passionfruit puree and even piping the mousse for final plating.
Passionfruit, indeed. Is it hot in here to anyone else?
Naturally, after a display that impressive (and delicious), we couldn’t wait for the next special occasion for Jason to show off his new-found kitchen confidence. Thank goodness the wait wasn’t long – we were thrilled to have our first visit from my little niece this weekend, along with Jason’s sister and mother from Houston. Living so far from home, family visits are one of our greatest delights – and what better way to celebrate than with a special batch of passionfruit mousse, prepared by Chef Jason himself?
He was magic all over again, making a perfectly airy and lovely mousse we piped into coupes for all to enjoy.
When the dust of the visit settled, we were left with a generous bowl of leftover passionfruit mousse – and while I could eat it all in one sitting, I wanted to find a way that I could prolong the pleasure (and keep from going up a jean size!) Semifreddo is the perfect answer to this conundrum.
Semifreddo loosely translates to “kinda frozen” in Italian, and that is exactly what happens to mousse when you freeze it – the light, airy whipped cream in the mousse firms up to be just a touch softer than ice cream, and lending itself to all kinds of delicious add-ins. With layers of fruit, cookie, or nuts, the combinations for a semifreddo are practically endless.
I had delicately spiced Speculoos cookies from Trader Joes on hand to form a crust-like layer for the semifreddo, but graham crackers and dark, chocolately Nabisco Famous Wafers would make a great base as well. Feel free to experiment with mix-ins – I used raspberries (my favorite fruit, next to passionfruit!), but strawberries, chopped pineapple or mango would all be equally delicious. For additional mix-ins, consider textural elements like nuts, coconut flakes, dried fruit or chopped up candy bars to bring interest to the the thick, creamy consistency of the frozen mousse.
DON’T DEFLATE YOUR AIRY MOUSSE WHEN COMBINING THE FRUIT PUREE AND WHIPPED CREAM – INSTEAD OF STIRRING TO MIX, GENTLY FOLD. TO FOLD, HOLD THE BOWL WITH YOUR NON-DOMINANT HAND AND GRIP THE SPATULA WITH YOUR OTHER HAND. DIG THE SPATULA INTO THE CENTER OF THE BOWL, TOUCHING THE BOTTOM. STAYING IN CONTACT WITH THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL, DRAG THE SPATULA UP THE SIDE AND OVER, BACK TO THE CENTER, FOLDING SOME OF THE MIXTURE OVER THE TOP GENTLY WHILE TURNING THE BOWL A QUARTER TURN WITH YOUR OTHER HAND. CONTINUE THIS UNTIL NO STREAKS REMAIN. FOLDING PRESERVES THE FLUFFINESS YOU CREATED BY WHIPPING THE CREAM (WORKING TINY AIR BUBBLES INTO THE CREAM).
Layer the mousse, textural elements, fruit and crumbled cookies into a lined loaf pan or decorative cake tin, then slice into pretty pieces like a loaf of bread. The slices will display your layering skills and creativity! If you feel like staging your own mini cooking class, kiddos can help fold the mousse or layer the ingredients without too much challenge. When it’s all assembled, you have a make-ahead frozen dessert you can serve to company or eat slowly at your leisure
It’s either portion control or obsessively making a good dessert last longer than it should… either way, a good thing!
- 1 cup passionfruit puree* (thawed, if frozen)**
- 7 oz sweetened condensed milk (half a 14 oz can, you can eyeball!)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Combine first three ingredients until incorporated.
- In a mixing bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks (start out at a low speed or first minute, then raise speed to medium high, watching carefully as cream begins to thicken).
- To test peaks, dip whisk into cream and pull out vertically. Flip the whisk gently upright - if the cream tip stands tall, it is ready; if it curls downward, whip for another 10-20 seconds and test again.
- Add a few spatulas of the whipped cream to the fruit puree mixture. Fold gently until combined.
- Gently pour the fruit puree into the whipped cream mixture. Again, fold gently until combined.
- Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (if you wish to pipe using pastry tip, chill overnight).
- *Can be ordered online at Amazon or sometimes found at ethnic markets.
- **Pureed pineapple would make a great substitute!
- 3/4 cup Speculoos cookie crumbs (or graham, Nabisco famous wafer crumbs) - appx. 12 cookies
- 2 cups passionfruit mousse (or other mousse)
- 1 cup raspberries (or 1 cup chopped mango, strawberry or pineapple)
- 3 Tbsp pistachios
- 8 x 4 loaf pan
- Saran wrap
- Line your loaf pan with plastic food wrap.
- Place a row of raspberries lengthwise down the center of the bottom of the pan, with circular berry openings facing the bottom of the pan.
- Pour 1 cup mousse into pan, spreading evenly (be careful not to disturb your raspberry row). Sprinkle pistachios evenly across the frozen mousse layer.
- Add one row of raspberries along each long side of the pan. This time, have the berry opening facing upward (toward you) so it will fill with mousse.
- Pour 1/2 cup mousse over the raspberries and pistachios, spreading evenly.
- Sprinkle remaining pistachios over mousse.
- Pour final 1/2 cup mousse over pistachios, spreading evenly.
- Tap pan lightly to release any air bubbles.
- Sprinkle pulverized cookie crumbs evenly over the mousse. Lightly press the crumbs into the mixture until the crust begins to stick together. You may just barely feel or see the mousse soaking through.
- Gently fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the crumb layer, then put the pan on an even surface in the freezer to freeze for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
- When ready to serve, unfold plastic wrap from base. place serving plate face-side down over the loaf pan. Carefully flip the plate and pan over together, then slide the pan off of the wrapped semifreddo.
- Peel off the wrap, then slice the semifreddo with a sharp knife using your raspberry line as guide (one top raspberry per slice).